BUYER'S GUIDE: Cyclocross bikes – Bike Magazine Australia

Cyclocross used to be the strange European cousin of road racing and mountain biking, a sport for those on the Continent to help stay fit over winter. But cyclocross has enjoyed a real revival, and while it is still huge in some of the heartland countries like Belgium, Holland, Czech Republic and even Switzerland, the growth in the USA and Australia has been phenomenal.

Cyclocross is about racing, but cyclocross bikes are also really versatile machines that can morph from a rugged commuter, to a gravel bike, adventure bike and back again. A cyclocross bike will have a shorter wheelbase and a narrower gear range than a gravel bike. Compared to an adventure bike, a cyclocross bike won’t have as many options for racks or extra bidon mounts, or clearance for wider tyres or 650b wheel size options. But if you want to try cyclocross racing then a ‘cross bike is your best choice. – Mike Blewitt

Our pick

Norco Threshold C Rival 1, $3,799

Best-known for their mountain bikes, Norco do a handy range of road, adventure and cyclocross bikes as well. The Canadian bike company updated their Threshold cyclocross bike for 2018, bringing modern hub standards with 12mm through-axles, greater clearance for mud and adventure rides (where you might fit something wider than a UCI legal 33mm tyre), new geometry and the option to run mudguards.

All of a sudden the Threshold can double as an excellent winter bike if your climate demands one, or even a light-duty adventure bike.

The Threshold C is the top carbon model we receive in Australia, and its spec-list ticks all the boxes. From flared handlebars to facilitate bunnyhops while in the drops, tacky bartape for control, tubeless ready wheels and tyres, a SRAM Rival 1×11 drivetrain, hydraulic brakes, and chain guide, all the way through to an open main frame to assist with shouldering the bike for run ups.

The previous Threshold had a tight wheelbase, which was ideal for highly technical cyclocross courses filled with corners, where a dedicated ‘cross racer could tip from one apex to the next at speed.

The flipside of that was the fact it was a little nervous-feeling for some and had a lot of toe overlap with the front wheel and your shoe – even in the largest sizes.

Norco have done nothing to give up the performance pedigree of the Threshold – the bike still has a compact top tube and short chainstays for very agile handling. But by dropping the bottom bracket height Norco have gained stability when riding steeper terrain. 

Compared to the previous model, the Threshold feels much more planted at speed on rough and choppy cyclocross courses – and part of this would be the tubeless ready rims and Clement tyres, allowing the low pressures required for racing. Take the Threshold out from between the course tape and to the trails or local dirt roads and the stability rewards fast speeds and holding the throttle right open. 

The Threshold is quick to remind you of its intended use when the climbs get steep. With a 40T chainring on the ‘Quarq-ready’ SRAM cranks, and an 11-32 cassette and mid-cage derailleur, the Threshold is primarily a cyclocross race bike, and extended steep climbs just aren’t part of CX racing. The greater tyre clearances open up options with the Threshold, but it’s true purpose is still to perform as a cyclocross race bike.  

If you’re interested in getting into competitive cyclocross racing, but want a bike that can have a wider performance window, then the Threshold will really deliver. If you want to push your boundaries, look to an adventure bike. But if you want to test yourself against others, then there’s nothing on the Threshold which will be holding you back.

Or you may want to consider

BMC Crossmachine CXA01 Rival, $3,299

This Swiss-engineered aluminium cyclocross bike is a really popular model in Australia. This isn’t surprising given its versatile geometry, wide range 11-42 cassette, premium alloy frame and carbon fork and seat post. With room for fatter tyres, racks and fenders, the CXA01 could blur the lines between cyclocross, gravel and adventure bikes. 

Bombtrack Hook AL, $2,699

This is the bike many on the Bombtrack Treadly racing crew ride – and it’s light, stiff, and designed to take the rigours of cyclocross racing. Although Bombtrack are best known for their steel frames, this aluminium model not only comes in at a lower cost, but might even have some more racing pedigree. New for 2018, the Hook AL gains hydraulic brakes, a full carbon fork and a wide-range 11-42 cassette for a better gear range.  

Liv Brava SLR, $2,499

There are very few women’s specific cyclocross bikes, but Liv deliver a beauty with the Brava SLR. The full alloy frame has steeper seat angles and a slightly slacker head tube angle than the TCX, and is matched with a full carbon fork, through-axles, hydraulic discs and wide range 11-42 cassette. With the 1x drivetrain the Liv Brava SLR can move from between the tape to following your nose on a topographic map.  

Focus Mares Force 1 Hydro, $4,999

The race weapon of choice for the Focus Attaquer Team, the Mares has a full-carbon frame, race specific geometry, and SRAM’s 1x Force group set with hydraulic brakes. Expect to see this bright race machine under many of Australia’s fastest riders if you head to a cyclocross race.  

Trek Boone 5 Disc, $3,999

The Boone’s geometry leaves you wanting nothing for race agility, but has enough stability for gravel adventures too. With IsoSpeed decouples and Trek’s carbon expertise, the Boone 5 Disc is smooth, fast, light – and ticks all the boxes for a quality race rig.